Cardiovascular Activity During Laboratory Tasks in Individuals with High and Low Worry
Anxiety and worry have been related to exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity and delayed recovery to laboratory stressors, and to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This study examined cardiovascular responses in high and low worriers to a range of laboratory tasks. The aim of this study was to determine if there is a task-specific relationship between worry and aberrant cardiovascular responding. Forty-one undergraduate women were recruited online to form low and high worry groups by use of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Four common laboratory tasks and two conditions designed to elicit worry and relaxation were used: hand cold pressor, mental arithmetic, orthostatic position, supine position, worry imagery, and relaxation imagery. Heart rate, heart rate variability, impedance cardiography, and blood pressure indices were collected to assess task reactivity and recovery, particularly in relation to autonomic nervous system activity. The high worry group had significantly higher heart rates throughout the study. The low worry group presented increased cardiovascular recovery to various tasks. The high worry group during task and post-task periods also increased parasympathetic withdrawal and sympathetic activation. The results of the study suggest that high worriers have decreased vagal control of the heart. The implications of this study suggest a potential link between the post-task period in high worriers and cardiovascular disease. Further research is recommended.